Are NJ Public Premises Responsible For Keeping Me Safe From Criminal Attacks?

The answer to this question essentially depends on whether the negligence of the owners or managers of the premises contributed in some way to the criminal act — and whether they might have reasonably anticipated such an event. Although New Jersey premises liability law requires public premises to be reasonably safe for visitors, it does not necessarily expect owners to anticipate every possible criminal offense that may occur on their property.

Security is certainly a major concern for anyone who owns public property. A review of the table of contents for the Security Law Handbook published by the Institute of Management and Administration cites numerous threats any facility can face, including the following:

  • Incidents in parking structures
  • Crowd rushes
  • Vacant properties
  • Employees with criminal records
  • Terrorism

The recent Boston Marathon tragedy provides a clear example of an incident that nobody could have reasonably anticipated. On the other hand, a store owner with a poorly lit entranceway might easily anticipate that criminals can linger in the dark to wait for victims to emerge, ripe for robbery or worse. By failing to provide bright lighting or hiring security guards in the entrance, this store owner can easily face premises liability lawsuits brought by crime victims, even if no one connected with the store actually committed the crime.

If you sustain injuries as a result of a criminal act on public property, you certainly have the right to pursue damages in a personal injury lawsuit against the perpetrator. However, these claims can become complex when a criminal action is being prosecuted by the state and takes priority over your civil complaint.